‘Pet parents’ are on the rise - but who gets the dog if you break up?

‘Pet parents’ are on the rise - but who gets the dog if you break up?

Over four million dogs were welcomed into families in just the last three years, with many couples cementing their family unit with a four-legged companion. Whilst pets bring so much joy to our lives, what if you decide it is best to part ways – who gets the dog then?


PDSA Vet Nurse Shauna Walsh shares her advice to couples on what to do should the worst happen...


“Sadly, it’s a fact of life that sometimes relationships break down. This gets more complicated when you share a home, belongings or pets. Many people view pets as their family members, and could not imagine life without them.


“Whilst most of us are aware of pre-nuptial agreements to protect our personal possessions and finances, there is such a thing as a ‘pet pre-nup’ or a ‘pet-nup’, which is the pet equivalent! The purpose of a pet-nup is to ensure your pet’s future is secure, with the right of ownership clearly set out should your relationship end.


What is a pet-nup?


“A pet-nup is a plan pre-agreed by both parties for what will happen with their shared pet, should the worst happen. These typically include who will take care of them and where they will live, as well as who shall be responsible for on-going care – whether this be a shared agreement or one party designated to become the sole carer.


“They are designed to make the end of a relationship a smoother process for both humans and any pets involved, hopefully keeping the best interests of the pet at the forefront of any decisions."




Advice for pet owners:


“For anyone with a pet, or those thinking of adding a pet to their family, it’s always important to remember that your pet could potentially be around for many years to come. Dogs can be in our lives for over a decade, so it’s really worth including your pets in your future plans, and ensuring their welfare needs will be met no matter what happens.


“When deciding how to best care for your pet post-breakup, factoring in their individual needs and preferences is key to keeping them happy and healthy.


“If you want to make formal arrangements for your pet, should your relationship ever come to an end, we’d recommend seeking legal advice before making any firm decisions.


“Whatever option you decide on, it is important to be aware of any behaviour changes your pet might show that could indicate stress. Particularly if you decide on a shared ownership agreement, where your pet resides in two different locations with different people. What may be fine for a short period could over time cause your pet to feel unsettled or stressed, so if you notice any behavioural changes, it is important to get your pet seen by a vet, and perhaps revaluate your living arrangements if your pet is stressed.


“We all want the best for our pets, and lots of pets do thrive with routine, so it’s important to factor this in when deciding how to navigate caring for your pet post-breakup.”

Alessandra Pacelli

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